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Were you exposed to asbestos while serving in the military?

Many military service personnel, especially those who served in the Navy, were exposed to asbestos while in service and are at risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, and other asbestos-related illnesses.

These illnesses have a long latency period, and can be aggressive. Often, by the time you are experiencing symptoms and get a correct diagnosis, the only treatment plan is to make the symptoms more manageable.

Here are answers to some common questions you may have about asbestos exposure while you were a service member.

What is the latency period for developing disease after asbestos exposure?

Asbestos usage has decreased in recent years, but with a long latency period, asbestos-related illnesses can develop from exposure 20 to 50 years ago. With a latency period that long, there are many people who were exposed to this toxic material years ago and have yet to develop a disease

Which veterans are most commonly affected?

Those at highest risk of exposure are Navy veterans. However, many other veterans exposed to asbestos during service are also at risk. This includes mechanics, boilermakers, electricians, pipefitters, machinists, insulators, and even those who traveled overseas on liberty or other transport ships. Shipyard workers generally are at an especially high risk for developing asbestos-related diseases.

How would I have been exposed?

Since asbestos had a lot of uses, there are a lot of potential ways for veterans to have been exposed. Primarily, service members who worked with insulation and other building materials are at the highest risk.

Since there is no "safe" level of exposure, anyone who worked with asbestos should be tested for related illnesses.

What symptoms should I watch for?

If you have been exposed to asbestos, pay attention to your health. Several of the early symptoms are easy to dismiss as a cold or allergies. Symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses include:

•· Shortness of breath

•· Cough

•· Weight loss

•· Chest pain

•· Back pain

Recurrent build-up of fluid in the lungs

What types of financial assistance are available?

Veterans diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses can potentially get health care and disability compensation benefits through the Veterans Administration.

Veterans exposed to asbestos in the military might also have been exposed to asbestos either before or after their service. Regardless how veterans were exposed, they may be eligible for the same non-VA sources of compensation as would any non-veteran or person exposed outside the military.

One such source of compensation is through bringing a personal injury or product liability lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for the exposure. Another source of compensation is through filing administrative claims with multiple trust funds that were set up after various manufacturers and suppliers filed bankruptcy because of their involvement with the asbestos industry. A knowledgeable attorney at our firm can help you understand your rights and options and how best to navigate them.

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